Clear Vision Ahead: Ophthalmology Residency Program’s Impact on Patients’ Lives

Mar 27, 2024 | About Us

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In the intricate world of ophthalmology, precision meets compassion, and delicate surgeries pave the path to clearer vision.

Ophthalmology is the medical specialty focused on the diagnosis, treatment, and care of eye-related conditions and diseases.

Harshvardhan Chawla, MDHarshvardhan Chawla, MD, chief resident of LSU Health’s ophthalmology residency program, shares about his journey with the program and its profound impact on patients’ lives, including those at the LSU Eye Clinic at Our Lady of the Angels Hospital in Bogalusa.

Journey to Precision

Dr. Chawla grew up in California, and he attended medical school in New York. It was there the allure of ophthalmology’s microsurgical finesse captured his heart.

“They’re basically the most delicate procedures you can do anywhere on the human body, requiring a lot of physical finesse, but also cognitive problem-solving,” he says. The blend of clinic and surgery, coupled with the profound outcomes, became his beacon, which led him to Louisiana.

A Spectrum of Care in Rural Landscapes

Offering eye clinics throughout southern Louisiana, LSU’s ophthalmology program offers a rich tapestry of experiences. In Bogalusa rural charm meets intricate eye care.

At Our Lady of the Angels Eye Clinic, the canvas is vast, spanning from refractive errors to diabetic retinopathy. “You pretty much get a little bit of everything.” From cataracts to glaucoma, each patient presents a unique narrative.

“You see a lot of great pathology in the clinic,” Dr. Chawla says. “Bogalusa is a rural community, so I get to really interact with a vastly different patient population than we typically see in New Orleans at some of our central sites.”

Putting Precision in Practice

Under the mentorship of Jennifer Vallelungo, MD, clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology, the residents hone their surgical skills, finding comfort in complexity as they learn to balance surgical precision and patient safety. 

In the realm of intricate surgeries, cataracts reign supreme. Through meticulous maneuvers and innovative tools like the Malyugin Ring, the residents navigate the complexities, ensuring optimal outcomes.

“I can certainly say, at least for myself, that by the time I finished my rotation in Bogalusa, I felt quite a bit more comfortable with running through a basic cataract surgery than I did coming in,” Dr. Chawla says.

Gratitude Beyond Vision

Dr. Chawla says his patients, especially those he has seen at Our Lady of the Angels, tend to have great relationships with the residents and their supervising faculty.

“There’s a really nice level of understanding that we’re going out into the community to try and do everything we can to help these patients maximize their level of function,” he says. “The patients are very grateful, once the surgeries are done and they can see just so much more clearly and return to their regular level of activity.”

The improvements to patients’ lives can be incredible. Some patients have a cataract that’s dense to the point they can barely see light, but in 24 to 48 hours after a successful procedure they can process details and visual input they haven’t been able to for decades.

“They really thank us for that, which makes us feel good,” Dr. Chawla says.

Similarly, the residents are grateful to the clinic team members who make their work possible. 

“We really could not do what we do without the incredible help of our clinic team,” Dr. Chawla says. “They truly go out of their way to take great care of us and keep everything in running order.”

What’s Next for Dr. Chawla

Beyond surgical prowess, LSU’s residency program fosters empathy and understanding. Dr. Chawla acknowledges the impact of rural interactions, which have broadened his perspective and nurtured patient-centric care.

Next up for Dr. Chawla is a virtual retinal surgery fellowship at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. His gaze will shift to the intricacies of the retina. Inspired by the complexity of retinal pathology, he eagerly anticipates the challenges ahead.

Find out more about the medical education and training programs at Our Lady of the Angels Health and throughout our health system.

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